I've had some amazing adventures in over a decade as a Harry Potter fan: reading and researching the books, visiting the sets of the film, enjoying Wizard Rock concerts, speaking at conventions, traveling throughout Britain discovering Harry Potter's world, and even writing two books. Over those years I've especially loved sharing my enthusiasm for Potter with fans at libraries, bookstores, and conventions. That's what this podcast is all about as well. I'll talk about canon sources (those wonderful Daily Prophet newsletters, for example), discuss the way the books work together to tell one glorious tale, and share some of my experiences wandering through Britain in search of Harry Potter's magical world. So come along as we wander through the magical world of the Harry Potter stories. ~~ Steve Vander Ark
OP36: Of Magic and Duels Part 2
In my last podcast, I talked about the first of two magic duels in chapter 36 of Order of the Phoenix, the one between Harry and Bellatrix. Now it’s time to move on to the main event, the massive duel between Albus Dumbledore and Voldemort.
There is no other magical battle in the entire series to equal this one. The roller-coaster flow of spells and counterspells is wild and breathtaking. This is certainly one of the most exciting, most cinematic magical battles in the entire saga.
This mighty duel is the centerpiece of the entire seven-book tale. We are most of the way through the middle book of the series. It’s the watershed moment, when the forces of good and evil collide and the fate of the wizarding world is at stake. But neither side wins, not yet. So what is the actual point?
The most important aspect of this duel is to show how powerful truly high-level wizards are, and how powerless Harry is in this situation. Remember, up to this point Harry has seen himself as what I call “super-hero Harry.” He has begun to count on his abilities and his “special-ness” to be able to face Voldemort one day. And of course he does! Any of us would. If we have to fight a supervillain, we had better find our inner superhero or we’re toast.
And toast it is. Harry gets a first hand look at just how powerful he will need to be in order to go toe to toe — or wand to wand — with Voldemort. He sees magic way beyond that which he has experienced, way beyond what he even thought possible. His abilities, while impressive for a fifteen year old wizard, are nowhere near strong enough for a flat out battle.
Of course, we’re seeing it too. We’ve been wondering how this is all going to end and assuming there will be a huge showdown at some point. We have imagined Harry and Voldemort in a duel, something like that Priori Incantatem faceoff in the graveyard, and figuring that maybe, just maybe the twin wand cores would be the secret to Harry winning the day. But in this duel, there is little wand-against-wand spellcasting. The truly epic combat consists of all environmental effects and transfiguration. The most jaw-dropping spells completely bypass the kind of “spells meeting in midair” situation that allowed Harry to escape the graveyard battle. Instead we see the water from the fountain whipped into a liquid prison and streams of fire morphing into a serpent. We see Voldemort teleport from place to place and then completely dematerialize to take on spirit form and to possess Harry.
Even Dumbledore has no defense against this last tactic, and Harry feels Voldemort take over, enveloping and consuming him. And then we get the first inkling of the kind of power which CAN defeat the Dark Lord. Harry’s heart is filled not with hate and aggression but with love for Sirius. And that power is what drives Voldemort away. Here’s how it’s described:
He was gone from the hall, he was locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes, so tightly bound that Harry did not know where his body ended and the creature’s began: they were fused together, bound by pain, and there was no escape
And when the creature spoke, it used Harry’s mouth, so that in his agony he felt his jaw move
`Kill me now, Dumbledore…’
Blinded and dying, every part of him screaming for release, Harry felt the creature use him again…
`If death is nothing, Dumbledore, kill the boy…’
Let the pain stop, thought Harry… let him kill us… end it, Dumbledore… death is nothing compared to this…
And I’ll see Sirius again…
Umbridge and Macnair
Umbridge is one of those characters the reader is supposed to hate and despise, but she isn’t a Death Eater, she’s just a nasty person. Sirius sums this up well by saying “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters”, and Umbridge is the perfect embodiment of this maxim, showing the nuance that Rowling can give to her characters. Not everything is black and white, and characters can be antagonists without being associated with Voldemort.
However, not every Harry Potter character has this depth. In the third book we are introduced to Macnair, the Ministry of Magic executioner who’s tasked with killing Buckbeak. The books show him as a little bit too bloodthirsty, and obviously, Harry, and us the readers, dislike him because of what he’s there to do. Surely this is just narrator bias though, right?
Nope. In the next book we learn that he’s literally a Death Eater too. And in Rowling’s original outline of the fifth book, he’s the most mentioned death eater after Lucius. If he’s not a good person, even if only from the limited viewpoint of the protagonist, then clearly he must be a Death Eater and Rowling confirms this. Some characters really are that one dimensional.
OP36: Of Duels and Magic Part One
In this podcast we’re going to take a look at the incredible magical duels in chapter 36 of the Order of the Phoenix.
Before we get to the main duel in the chapter, however, that between Voldemort and Dumbledore, we learn a bit about the Unforgivable Curses when Harry and Bellatrix have their own duel in the Atrium before Voldemort appears.
After killing Sirius, Bellatrix runs away through the Department of Mysteries and into the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic headquarters. Harry chases after her, consumed by righteous anger. Once he catches up to her, he fires off the Cruciatus curse in her direction, knocking her off her feet. But she isn’t affected the way he would have expected. He has cast the spell incorrectly.
Here we see something very interesting. The spell clearly involves more than the words and the wandwork. In some ways it mirrors the Patronus Charm, which requires happy thoughts. In this case, Harry’s anger, fierce though it is, doesn’t provide the needed “energy,” if you will. Here’s how the book describes it:
Hatred rose in Harry such as he had never known before; he flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, “Crucio!”
Bellatrix screamed: the spell had knocked her off her feet, but she did not writhe and shriek with pain as Neville had – she was already back on her feet, breathless, no longer laughing. Harry dodged behind the golden fountain again. Her counter-spell hit the head of the handsome wizard, which was blown off and landed twenty feet away, gouging long scratches into the wooden floor.
“Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?” she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. “You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain – to enjoy it – righteous anger won’t hurt me for long – I’ll show you how it is done, shall I? I’ll give you a lesson -”
The intention must be there, not just the emotion of hatred, but an actual desire to cause pain. Perhaps this is why the Curses are considered as evil as they are: they are specifically caused by evil emotions.
Rowling actually has another larger reason for this exchange, a reason which comes into play at the very end of the series in the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort in chapter 36 of Deathly Hallows. You see, the key to that confrontation and indeed, the key to the overarching plot of the entire series, is Harry’s intentions in that moment. He is facing Voldemort, the cause of all the pain and suffering and sadness in not only his life but that of so many others in the Wizarding World. He has every reason to be filled with hate and anger. He has every reason to want to make Voldemort suffer and die with dramatic vengeance. In other words, he has every reason to want and be able to use the Unforgivable Curses on Voldemort.
And here, in chapter 36 of Order of the Phoenix, we see that he has learned how to use one of them, the Cruciatus Curse, from a true mistress of inflicting pain, Bellatrix Lestrange. He has learned his lesson well. He has clearly mastered the Imperius Curse, as we see when he uses it to control a href="https:...
Season Three is Here!
Season Three is Here!
Hello, everyone. Back in January, 2018, I created a new short-form podcast called The Harry Potter Lexicon Minute. I had planned on a shorter title — The Harry Potter Minute — but discovered that there was already a podcast with that name, so I added the Lexicon’s name. The podcast ran for over 160 episodes, through November of 2019. I added a few more episodes in the summer of 2020 during our 25th anniversary Canon Celebration.
And now I’d like to welcome you all to a new season of the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast. This time around I’ll be finishing up my series on Order of the Phoenix, which stopped at chapter 35 back in September of 2019. I’ll add to my Canon Thoughts series, and maybe investigate a lingering Potter mystery or two. Some of our other editors have been working on scripts as well. I’m aiming for one or two episodes a week for at least the rest of the summer. So make sure you subscribe wherever you get your podcasts so you won’t miss a single one. I and the rest of the Lexicon team are really looking forward to sharing our enthusiasm for the Wizarding World with you. Thanks for listening!
Half-Blood Prince 7-24 Canon Celebration
Summer is over and it is time to return to Hogwarts. Harry has lessons with Professor Dumbledore to look forward to. He becomes surprisingly talented in Potions class and works hard as the new Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. But what is his classmate Draco Malfoy actually up to?
Ready or not, here we go!
Fifty Years Ago by Steve VanderArk
Pince and Prince by hpboy13
Episode 25: The Horcrux Conundrum by Steve VanderArk and Nick Moline
Horcrux Deaths by Steve VanderArk
These guides were originally written in 2005 and 2006. Since that time, a few edits were made here and there but basically the text remained the same. To get ready for this Canon Celebration, our editors have been revising each one. We’ve added fan artwork to the Guide which illustrates the text. At the bottom in the Commentary section we’ve added a gallery of additional artwork. So even if you’ve read our guides before, please give them another look. And if you’re doing a re-read of the books, have the Guide to each chapter open as you go! I’m sure you’ll find a lot of information you didn’t know.
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 7
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 8
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 9
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 10
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 11
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 12
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 13
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 14
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 15
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 16
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 17
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 18
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 19
Reader’s Guide to Chapter 20
Order of the Phoenix 1-9 Canon Celebration
Everything turns a bit darker in Book Five. Lord Voldemort has returned. Dementors show up in unexpected places. And Harry is unhappy, even when he has re-joined his friends before the end of the summer.
Ready to find out why? Let’s go!
Encore Presentation: OP 1: Drought by Steve VanderArk
OP 2: Kneazles by Steve VanderArk
OP 3: Why Not Side-Along Apparition? by Steve VanderArk
OP 4: Discovering Grimmauld Place by Steve VanderArk
OP 5: I Don’t Think I Like This Book by Steve VanderArk
OP 6: Drawing Room Delights by Steve VanderArk
OP 7: The Ministry of Magic by Steve VanderArk
OP 8: Sweet Victory Forshadowed by Steve VanderArk
OP 9: What is a “Flint?” by Steve VanderArk
OP 9: Lucius? I Remember Him by Steve VanderArk
The Twins’ O.W.L.s by hpboy13
Number Twelve by Selena Gallagher
Portraits by Eileen Jones
The Photograph and the Boggart by Abby Koop
Seeing is Believing by Eileen Jones
Episode 3: “There’s an Elf Head Hanging Outside the Window” by Steve VanderArk
Episode 10: “This Gap Is Where It All Changed” by Steve VanderArk
These guides were originally written in March of 2002. Since that time, a few edits were made here and there but basically the text remained the same. To get ready for this Canon Celebration, our editors have been revising each one. We’ve added fan artwork to the Guide which illustrates the text. At the bottom in the Commentary section we’ve added a gallery of additional artwork. So even if you’ve read our guides before, please give them another look. And if you’re doing a re-read of the first book, have the Guide to each chapter open as you go! I’m sure you’ll find a lot of information you didn’t know.
Reader’s Guide to C...
Concerning Petunia Evans Dursley
1 Albus Dumbledore’s letter to Petunia Dursley was written by Albus Dumbledore on November 1st 1981 to Petunia Dursley. The letter detailed the wards that would be created if she agreed to raise Harry.
So does that mean she knew about Mrs Figg? Is that why she was essentially a babysitter for the Dursleys when they left Harry behind? She also would have known that after Harry reached adulthood the wards would go away. Could this also be why she was less strict about Harry going to Hogwarts? If they didn’t like Harry wouldn’t Hogwarts be a god send? They could be rid of him for most of the year.
2 Albus Dumbledore’s Howler to Petunia Dursley was written by Albus Dumbledore to Petunia Dursley on August 2nd 1995, to remind her “of the pact she had sealed by taking Harry Potter in”.
Dumbledore really thought the Howler was going to be effective in that moment? I doubt that the letter and promise was the last thing in her mind. She was only focusing on her Little Dudley.
Such a great podcast
I'm a long-time listener and supporter of the HP Lexicon and have always loved the podcast...so glad that Steve Vander Ark continues to keep the Harry Potter world alive and relevant!
The new HP Lexicon site
I have just finished watching episode 19. I found it thoroughly amazing and extremely informative. You are all doing wonderful work. I have loved the lexicon site and your podcasts for many years now and am enjoying exploring this different format. Thank you so much for all your dedication, attention to detail and hard work!!! Please continue!!!